When Aunty Martha Watts started smoking it was a very rebellious thing to do, Aboriginals weren’t allowed in hotels at that stage, so she would sneak to the pub to buy a packet of cigarettes.
Today, Aunty Martha, 69 of Paralowie and an Arabuna Elder, hasn’t touched a cigarette in more than 30 years.
A woman of the Stolen Generation, she says there was no way she was letting cigarettes take away precious time with loved ones. “I was taken away from my family so I didn’t want to miss any of that life with my own family because I missed so much time with my parents, brothers and sisters,” Aunty Martha said.
“My mother died of a very young age of a heart condition and that really played on my mind. I thought I have to wake up to myself and look after myself. I got to be around for my kids!”
Aunty Martha was in her late twenties when she decided to give up the smokes. And even though she wasn’t a heavy smoker it did affect her health. Soon she found herself in intensive care in hospital.
“I got asthma and had severe breathing problems. I had to think which way would I go? To smoke or fix my health up? And I decided enough was enough,” Aunty Martha said.
“It got so bad that I couldn’t even look after my babies. They would have to bring their food into my bed so I could feed them.” Since giving up, Aunty Martha said has not looked back. Now she dedicates her life to helping her people and communities through participating in advisory boards and elder groups.
“I try to be a good role model to the young ones and help guide them along,” she said. “I tell them not to take up smoking. I say think about when you get married and your wife is pregnant and how your smoking will affect your children.
“You have only got one life. If you have children, grandchildren, family and dear friends they want you to be around for a long, long time.”